In this series here on From Virginia to the Show, we look back at the 2015 season and some memorable moments involving Virginia ballplayers. In this first installment, we focus on OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (Prince George)
Bradley, drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2011, worked his way up to the Red Sox in just under 2 years. But once arriving with the big club, he struggled with his hitting. batting .189 in 37 games in 2013. The Red Sox decided to give him some regular playing time in ’14, 127 games of playing time, and while his batting average went up slightly (.198), his on-base percentage dropped 15 points, and he was tagged with 121 strikeouts. While his defense was exceptional-he was even a finalist for a Gold Glove, his hitting woes threatened to derail his career.
After a miserable ’14, Bradley relocated to Florida to work with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez. When 2015 commenced, he still struggled to find his hitting groove, constantly on the shuttle between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket. On the night of August 14th, he did notch three hits to bring his batting average over .200 for the first time-.203. Those three hits gave him 8 hits in his last 16 AB over 4 games as Boston got set to host the Seattle Mariners and their pitching ace, Felix Hernandez, in a matinee game on the afternoon of August 15th.
What was expected to be a pitching clinic with King Felix turned into a slugfest, and with historic results.
Bradley smacked 3 doubles and slugged 2 homeruns, finishing the day with 7 RBIS, in a 22-10 win for the Red Sox. Bradley’s day was record-setting, as he tied a major league record with his 5 extra base hits, joining a list of 7 others who have done that, including HOFers Willie Stargell and Lou Boudreau.
Bradley’s day marked the fifth consecutive game in which he had increased his batting average from the day before, as he brought his average up to a more respectable .250. He went into a mini-slump that lasted all of about a week before he caught fire again. seeing his batting average go as high as .312 before he cooled off and finished the season with a respectable .249, a career high. He hit 10 Homeruns, also a career high, and his 43 RBIs were more than his previous 2 seasons combined. He finished with an On Base Percentage of .335, and he cut down his Strikeouts by almost half (121-69.)
Probably more significantly for Red Sox brass, however, Bradley showed that he belongs in the starting outfield at Fenway Park. He is set to turn 26 in mid-April, and appears to have left-field locked down for years to come.